British Columbia

B.C. families with kids on no fly list call for changes from federal government

Two families in British Columbia are adding their voices to the growing call for a better system to address children's names on Canada's no fly list.

Public Safety Ministry task force recommendations due to be released this week

Faaria Siddiqui, far right, says her infant son shares a name with someone on Canada's no fly list. (CBC)

Two families in British Columbia are adding their voices to the growing call for a better system to address children's names on Canada's no fly list.

"The first time I experienced difficulty with my son's name is when he was two weeks old," said Burnaby resident Maryam Egal. "All the time we travel it gets worse."

Egal never imagined that naming her now 14-year-old son after her brother would label him as a security threat when checking in to get on a plane.

Maryam Egal worries about what will happen to her son, who shares a name with someone on Canada's no fly list, when he turns 18. (CBC)

But she says every flight she takes with him prompts concerned and confused looks from airport and flight personnel, followed by a slew of additional security measures.

Egal says she was told her son's name matches one on Canada's no fly list. Every time he travels, the airline has to call its security line and get his name cleared for boarding.

It's a process that can take anywhere from five minutes to five hours.

"I'm worried about when he gets older," she said. "When my son gets 18 years old, he's going to travel on his own." 

"Also, I don't want any Canadian child to go through this. It's a terrible thing to do."

Airline suggests name change

It's an issue Kamloops mother Faaria Siddiqui and her husband have become familiar with in the past year, since their son was born. 

"It was really annoying," she said. "I can understand there are security issues but the fact is he's an infant and barely a year old."

Siddiqui has travelled with her son a handful of times, and she says each time they have been faced with the same scrutiny.

When asking what she can do to bypass the delays, she says Air Canada crews recommended she change his name.

"I wasn't happy with that. How do we know if we change his name it won't be on the list or the name we choose won't be on list?"

Faaria Siddiqui says Air Canada suggested she change her son's name to avoid delays caused by his sharing a name with someone on the no fly list. (CBC)

'They need to get their act together'

A group advocating for children on the no fly list says more than 40 families have come forward so far, and many others are too afraid to speak out least their children be stigmatised any further. 

The No Fly List Kids group is calling for all children to be taken off the no fly list.

It's also pushing for a redress system similar to the one in the United States, which would allow people whose name matches one on the security list to be given a number so they would be cleared when checking in.

"There are too many organizations involved  too many agencies, too many lists," said international security expert Andre Gerolymatos.

"There isn't one grand list and this is what has caused a lot of confusion and delays. They need to get their act together. Canadian security needs to be protected at all costs. However, not at the cost of children."

No additional screening needed

The federal government says it has told airlines they don't need to order additional screening for children under 18 who appear to be on such lists.

In January, the Public Safety Ministry said it clarified those rules with airlines, and it was "exploring possible regulatory amendments" that would "help differentiate individuals who have similar or the same names as individuals listed under the Passenger Protect Program."

In March, Canada and the U.S. agreed to set up a joint Redress Working Group to help resolve errors of identity on no-fly lists.

In addition, the two countries said they would routinely share their respective no-fly rosters as part of a joint effort to identify threats, something the ministry called "the first agreement of its kind" on such lists.

The task force looking into the issue is expected to release its findings and recommendations later this week.